(Lack) of stability in the Middle East

July 21, 2006

Israel is massing it’s troops on the Lebanese border today, and Lebanon is already talking about how they will defend the border if necessary. They won’t stop the Israelis, of course, but they need to do something to resist no matter how unlikely their chance for victory may be. Meanwhile, western nations try and get their nationals out of the way while doing very little to actually stop Israel’s asymmetric response to Hezbollah’s attacks. The US appears content to let Israel collapse the Lebanese state while trying to link Syria and/or Iran to the whole mess.

In a related matter, Turkey, a NATO member and US ally, is talking about entering Northern Iraq to combat Kurdish insurgents there if the US can not keep them in line.

People in the US Congress are finally starting to utter the ‘C’ word when it comes to the Iraqi situation, which is slowly but surely spinning out of control.

Meanwhile, the Taliban, whom we thought had been more or less eradicated by the US shortly after taking over Afghanistan, have been making a comeback. Without western forces, the Karzai government would have a shaky hold on power at best.

Iran continues to be defiant over it’s nuclear program, playing for time while the G8 tries to put pressure on them to accept or reject the terms offered to them last month. The Iranians have nothing to gain by moving quickly, and so they delay.

There’s a lot of uncertainty in Middle East right now, and if Israel does invade Lebanon, all bets are off in terms of both the geopolitical picture over there, as well as what will happen to the price of oil, which has been testing record highs recently. Gas prices, while high, have been fairly stable in the USA due to a mild start to hurricane season, and relative stability in both the stock market and the Middle East. I’m wondering how long both of those forces will remain balanced, for there are many dark clouds on the horizon right now, and they have potentially dire consequences for our future.

One of the issues that is brought up repeatedly throughout the peak oil blogosphere (and related forums, etc) is that the world isn’t prepared for change. We have endured one of the longest periods of peace and economic prosperity that the world has ever seen, and we’ve become totally dependent on the massive & complex systems that organize our modern lifestyle. Where does your power come from, or your gasoline, food, or clothing? Odds are good that it all comes from somewhere else, whether it’s the far side of the metro area, the state, the country or the planet. How are you going to survive and provide for your family if the power’s out, or you’re out of work? What happens when the prices at your local box-mart rise by 25 percent due to the increased costs of shipping stuff from the cheap labor paradises on the other side of the world?

The Middle East (more accurately, the energy reserves of the Middle East) is crucial to our short-term survival. Without unlimited access to oil , our economy will falter, and that will start a domino effect of consequences that will shatter many peoples’ lives. We will be locked in tight with Israel until the presidential elections of 2008. I’ll be curious to see if the next president (regardless of party) may start deciding that our long-term friends are becoming more trouble than they’re worth, especially since our support of them is a major thorn in the side of our erstwhile Arab allies who are sitting on top of all that oil and natural gas. Without major US support, Israel is in trouble, and as I’ve referenced in my previous posting, they will not go down quietly. How the US manages this relationship over the next few years will play a very large role in determining the future course of history. I hope the people in charge have the guts and the brains to make the hard, yet correct choices that will need to be made.

It appears that we are starting to enter the Fourth Turning, one of those periods of time where tensions build and then unleash tremendous change on the world. It feels to me as if the entire world is like a spring, slowly but surely being twisted and coiled up until the pressure becomes to great and the spring lets go. It’s an exciting time, for sure, but also a stressful one. A lot of people in the USA, at least, seem to have the subconcious feeling that something’s not right; that there are unseen forces at work slowly changing our lives, our country, and our world. Take your pick: from the various US intelligence scandals, corruption scandals, energy issues, environmental issues, and the economy, we’ve got a lot of balls in play right now. Sectors of the US population appear to be waking up and figuring out that all is not well. we may not have figured out what to do yet, but it sure appears that more and more people are at least starting to pay attention.

People are already commenting on the fomenting human tragedy in Lebanon. I wonder how many of then can connect the dots and see how that can lead to a larger scale tragedy elsewhere?